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Dear Stacey, This one's a doozy. My boyfriend is the perfect boyfriend, and I love him completely. Our relationship is perfect. Except for one thing. He's in the army, and so he has no control of his destiny. The government has all the say in that. And they're all "surprise!" we're sending you to Afghanistan for a year! We already did one of these deployments, to Iraq. And in the year in-between I've been deluding myself that somehow we can make a life and a family together. Also you should know that I love my career--it's promising, and fulfilling, and tied to one city. And I really really want to have kids. And it seems like all three of these things--him, career, family--cannot possibly co-exist. At the bare minimum, I'd have to give up my career, and raise his children alone every-other-year, while he gets jerked around to whatever shitty, pointless war we're fighting then. We survived one deployment together, and it took all the strength I had. The thought of doing it again is just overwhelmingly exhausting and depressing--I don't know how Army Wives do it! I think believing in God and America (neither of which I do) must help. Alternately, I could keep him, keep my career, do the long-distance thing forever, and give up on having a family. But no, I really, really want that! More than either of the others, maybe. I want fat, toddling babies that I can pontificate to all day long. What the hell do I do, Stacey? Did I mention that I love him! I fucking love him! He's fucking perfect in every way, okay?! Except that he loves the fucking stupid fucking army! AHHHHHHH and I don't want to be that bitch that makes him choose between me and the army. But I'm almost there, Stacey. I'm almost ready to bring it down to that. To an ultimatum. Huh. Like any good life together ever started with an ultimatum. I just can't figure out a way for us to be together without one of us being miserable. Being without him would be even more miserable. He is 100% my favorite person in the world, and the only person who can make me smile after a long, shitty day.
Everyone else around me gets to sleep next to their husband every night, and they're all having beautiful, precocious babies, and I'm so fucking jealous. I'm just trapped. Any way I go will fucking suck. Fuck. Help me, Stacey.
That's easy. You already know the answer: marry him, have the babies, do it now, don't wait. Your relationship may suck in several ways but it's more than most people ever have and you're lucky to have it. And you're not trapped--I doubt that your Army man thinks of you as trapped--you're just in a situation where you're never, ever going to get everything you want. I'm disgusted to sound like your fourth-grade teacher, but honestly, in life, there's really no chance of actually getting everything you want. You can nurse a dream of it, and fight for it, but those are fairy tale dreams rather than real goals. Even when it looks like other people's fairy tale dreams have come true, they actually haven't (two words: Diana Spencer). If you're stuck on your dreams of a perfect future, consider this: it's common enough to find a man who will sleep next to you every night, but it's a rare thing to get a chance to marry your great love.
Here are a few things that might make you feel better: everyone does not get to sleep next to their husband every night and sometimes when they do, they don't want to. Life is long and people get sick of each other, even people who love each other deeply. There's something to be said for taking a break. I know a year is too long but it might help the two of you cherish the time you have together in a way that bored, old couples don't even consider. Because eventually you will be a bored old couple. Also: Skype. And: get him to give you something major, huge, and painful. Put your foot down. He has to give you something if you give him this, otherwise you'll be tormented by resentment. This will erode your love. You can't be the only giver. Even though it may feel loving to be the main giver, eventually you will start to hate him, in ten minutes or ten years, so you can't do this. Got it? It can be money to help with childcare when he's away, all his extra money (because you don't want to be raising the babies all alone), or a promise to quit the Army by the birth of child two, or to stay home a year with the babies himself in the future. He wants a good family life too, right? He's going to have to work for it at some point, to give something up, even the Army. In five years, six--is there any amount of time that seems reasonable to him? (Don't wait for the babies to look and him and cry, hoping that that will do it. Because if it doesn't, you'll be extremely angry). Get him to make a plan now.
If he really won't give up the Army, ever ever, figure out if there's anything else that will satisfy you. (Also, please remind him that no one is going to love him forever if he always calls the shots unilaterally--no one loves a tyrant. Except his dog). Maybe you could have a non-monogamy clause for you, just you. You get to have a boyfriend on the side and he doesn't get to, ha ha ha. A diamond ring every year. Or, my favorite, you let him be in the Army if he says yes to you about everything else. Honey, want to take a walk? Yes. Want to change the baby's diapers? Yes. Want to go to the Katy Perry concert? Yes. Oh, we forgot milk. Will you go back to the store for it? Yes, yes, yes.
Hey Stacey! I haven't looked on here in a while, and I was surprised to learn that I was your only friend from "meatspace" who posts on here. Come to think of it, I have known you for a long time; even before people would communicate via electronic mail and portable telephone systems! Okay, here's a question: How do you feel about the closing of "Borders"?
Yo Wag. I have confused feelings about the closing of Borders. On one hand, the Borders across the street from me sucks so bad that I don't care if it closes, as I wasn't buying stuffed animals and flowered journals and James Patterson books anyway. On the other hand, I'm worried that this means that people no longer read. Maybe there will now be more room for independent bookstores, the kind where you ask the clerk what to read and she hands you a really great book you've never heard of before. A silly dream? Perhaps Wag, perhaps.
Do you find that the internet is as diverting as it ever has been, with new sites and blogs still inciting and inviting, fascinating and delighting you, or do you now have less use for it than you used to?
Pickles, Pickles, Pickles. I still find the internet distracting, shiny, amazing, learned, and almost utterly irresistible as a method of procrastination. Therefore I still use child-control (otherwise known as porn-blocking) software to limit my internet use. Actually, the whole deal is that I have one computer I write with--without internet, with email--and another old laptop that I use to connect to the internet. This is pathetic but necessary.
How I use the internet has changed over the years. Mostly I look up crucial information such as the names of character actors I've forgotten and what breeds of rabbits are the most personable (the Flemish bunny is very docile & nice but so huge that it shits like a linebacker) and what cave paintings are the prettiest and which kind of ironing board cover is the best. I now can't imagine life without access to this kind of information, and in my fantasies of going back in time/repeating the most fucked-up parts of my life, I always want to take Google with me. I'm less likely to read blogs compulsively or lurk on social networking sites, though I do do both things and I'm especially amazed and happy to see pictures posted by my friends, acquaintances, and people who like to dress up as sexy clowns and have sex (klowns).
Also, if you're a writer, the internet is amazing for research. You can find out how to do all sorts of things--even illegal ones--with just a few clicks. Though I've never been able to find the precise recipe for the quickie method of making crystal meth out of cold medicine in the backseat of a car--oh wait. I just Googled it--nope, still didn't find it.
The Day Of The Locust is an incredible piece of work. Have you read anything else by Nathaniel West?
Just Miss Lonelyhearts. He died at 37 so he didn't really write much.
Hi! It's been too long! I've eaten five chocolate chip cookies and a small package of red vines today and nearly hurled at roller derby practice this evening. I suddenly remembered that you once wrote that sugar was evil. Perhaps you didn't use those exact words, but I was under the impression that you don't eat it. Have you always avoided sugar? Could you give me your history with sugar? p.s. I love the semicolon, too!!
Hi littleshirly. I bet the roller derby girls would be impressed if you hurled in practice. In fact, I bet they'd try to get you to do it again for a match. Yeah, I probably said sugar is evil. It is very sad, I know, because it's so good, but I try not to eat very much of it. This all started a few years ago when I began to read books about food and diet (because my stomach hurt--it actually turned out to be a manifestation of my back pain probs., but we'll talk about that later, in our rocking chairs). I became a big fan of the science writer Gary Taubes, who wrote a thick book about the history of dietary science and recently a thinner one, explaining how we all came to think that the fat in our diet gives us heart attacks, diabetes, and makes us gain weight, when the best evidence seems to indicate that it's actually sugar and unrefined carbs that do these things (by raising our blood sugar and releasing a shitload of insulin).
Long story short, we evolved as hunter/gatherers (agriculture was only taken up in earnest about 10,000 years ago). Therefore our bodies are adapted for hunter-gatherish kinds of food, like bugs, bone marrow, decaying bison meat, and starfish. Yum.
My, how the little Q'n'A has grown up, huh? It does seem to be trending more blog-like . . . How does that square with your original intentions for this forum? Is it ever a little scary in here for you, maybe like the end of Day of the Locust? Do you have a favorite novel of Hollywood? Is there any punctuation or typographical gesture you love as much as I love ellipsis (a.k.a. dot dot dot)?
No way, I love the ellipsis too! I've only recently come to love it, however, after reading style guides over and over (I do not recommend this. After a while, you'll be writing dry, crisp, style-guide sentences and hating yourself for it). I love the semicolon too and use it way too much; someone once told me it was pretentious, which only encouraged me. I would have to say that Day of the Locust is my favorite novel of Hollywood also, as well as one of the novels I've probably read the most times. I might add some Raymond Chandler though I'm not sure if that really counts.
I would be happy to make this more blog-like, without the narcissism/tediousness, with more chance for responses to my answers, hostility and love, tipsy typing, etc....I would, but I'm too lazy, but wait, I have a web friend who liked martinis, maybe he can help me. You know Shittin' & Fuckin', I'm not sure what my original intentions for this forum were. I only knew that as far as authors and authorship, I hated readings, hated going to readings, but loved Q and A's and wished for more of that. This forum has far surpassed my expectations. It's fun, it's strange, it has it's own momentum. The questions are so smart and funny! You guys are doing a great job. Thanks.
Can we ban students from this or at least set up an auto-reply that reads, "Do your own homework, Slacker"?! Or maybe it's time this thing gets turned into a real blog with real comments sections so your real readers can do the tough talking for you...eh? Eh?
I like the students asking about their homework. I love them. Something I wrote was assigned as homework! WTF? Ha ha ha ha ha.
This is really none of my business, but are Wag and Liam your friends in real life?! You love them so much more than anyone else. Also, didn't you see/LOVE The Social Network?! Lastly, if you think movies are bad, try reading scripts that will never become movies. There seems to be a weird trend these days where writers slip in gross-talk in lieu of real or interesting character nuances. For example: in one script I read today, the writer describes the main character's polyester pants as "wedged in her tweadle. *And in case the reader has no idea what a tweadle is, went on to clarify "(the orifice just south of the poo.)" Needless to say, I stopped reading the script right there, at page 12. But it did get me thinking: how the hell do you write genuinely funny things without pandering (like this writer did), alienating or inadvertently writing tragedy? While easy to criticize a failed attempt, I suspect it's really hard to get right. And yet, you manage to nail it, Stacey. Share your secrets, please!
Okay, one more: Would you tease us with a tidbit from the capitalist novel?!!
Yes, Wag and Liam are my friends in real life, but it only seems like I love them more because they're good sports who use one same-ish name when they ask questions so I can identify them. (And for what it's worth, Wag is an old friend from Tucson who I know in the old-fashioned way--and is pretty much my only real-life friend who posts here, bless him--while I got to know Liam after he started posting here and made a coffee date with me, because he's one of those amazing, friendly people who is not afraid of other people). Speaking of social, I did not see The Social Network. I heard it was good but I still thought it was going to like one of the New York Times articles about twitter that explains the internet to old people.
As for humor, I think the answer is right there in your question. You can't write comedy without risk, especial without the risk of inadvertently writing tragedy (and forget about not alienating people--by definition, anything really funny isn't funny to everyone). Deep funniness, to me, is often sad, and sometimes the most biting humor isn't even exactly funny, like Andy Kaufman's Mighty Mouse routine, or when Hal 9000 says "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that," or when Louis C.K.'s playdate falls asleep on the couch in Louie. Those moments are so full of loneliness and sorrow and awkwardness that they shouldn't be funny at all. They sort of aren't. But then they are.
But that's not an answer. Here's my answer: sorry about the scripts. Hollywood thrives on sameness and thinks that funny things should be happy, but the best humor is unexpected and often quite sad.
Novel? What novel?
It has been said that fiction reveals the truth obscured by reality. What general truths do you attempt to reveal with your eloquent fiction?
What is cynicism a defense mechanism for? How did it evolve and when does it just become pathetic and immature? I'm also a sufferer.
When you get right down to it, pretty much every personality trait is a defense mechanism--cynicism, trust, optimism, pessimism; intelligence, sweetness, industry, heroism--all are strategies for coping with the devastating fact that the future is utterly unknown to us except for the part where we and everyone we know DIES. Dies, dies, dies, dies, dies, dies, dies. Octomoms, Buddhists, Trappist monks, authors, army generals, supermodels, world record-holders, schoolchildren, you, dies. So that you're DEAD. It's almost impossible to think about this for more than ten seconds without slipping into a mental strategy of mitigation: but my children will live on! My work will be remembered! I'll be reborn as a lizard! I'll live until I'm super-old and then fade away! By then they'll know how to preserve my brain in a jar and I'll pilot a Segue until the end of time with my mind! The whole earth will be destroyed in the coming enviro-apocalypse, so I won't bother to imagine my individual death because if everybody gets flattened by the new weather I myself won't suddenly be gone the way, say, Jeff Conoway was eerily just here and is now totally gone alone (besides he was a drug addict and everyone knows addicts are practically asking for it. How bad can a broken spine hurt anyway?)!
The thing is this: humans have intellects, we are forward thinking, we've invented leaf-blowers and slow cookers through the cumulative dynamo of culture, but in the end we're animals that shit and fuck and then die. Our denial circuits evolved to make us want to live in the face of death (I've actually thought this for a while, but it turns out this guy Ernest Becker wrote a Woody-Allenesque book about it in the 1970's that seems to say a lot more stuff about it, but I'm not sure if I can finish it since my bookmark fell out around page 30 and I'm afraid someone is going to see me reading a book called The Denial of Death and make fun of me. Because even reading about the denial of death is frightening). In the face of all this, what's a little cynicism? It sounds almost wholesome. It's never pathetic and immature, it's only human and distracting. And sometimes Gali, it's realistic. I bet you know when to trust people and when to give them the benefit of the doubt and besides, what are you supposed to do? Be all starry-eyed with puppy trust and overflow with faith in humanity? Because first of all, that's just creepy and second, those are the people who get cut up by serial killers.